Digital and creative reviews on the horizon?

Every aspect of the high street retailer’s ranges will be “undergoing scrutiny and change” in 2019, following a decline in group sales in the six months to 29 September this year, worsened by closures of 24 of the 100 stores it has scheduled to shut by 2022.

CEO Steve Rowe has cited the brand’s ageing customer base, dated stores, expensive food and “confusing promotions” as contributing factors to diminishing footfall over the last 10 years - yet further problems have this year stemmed from understocking its most popular lines, “grotesque” shop window displays and a slow uptake of digital and ecommerce solutions that could help reach its desired audience of young females.

That said, the brand has already begun laying the groundwork for its comeback, with significant changes to its in-house team this year - including the departure of Executive Director, Customer Marketing & M&S.com Patrick Bosquet-Chavanne (who oversaw its last creative review) and the appointment of Marketing Director Nathan Ansell.

AOR review? With the brand looking to leave “no stone unturned” in its business overhaul, a review of incumbent Grey is therefore hotly anticipated next year. Personal intervention from Martin Sorrell meant only WPP agencies invited to its previous pitch in H2 2016 –  his departure will open the process to other groups and independents.

New Chief Digital Officer Jeremy Pee (who joins this December) indicates a major opportunity for digital specialists to win projects early in the new year. Considerable investments in digital, ecommerce and data science are expected, as M&S looks to a focus on altering in-house “digital behaviours, mindsets and culture”. Its current “Must-Haves” Christmas campaign is its most digital to date, incorporating both Google Inventory Advertising and the Shoppable Instagram feature. In addition, its predictive analytics partnership with First Insight tests thousands of products in more than 50 stores to inform new collections and pricing strategy - we’d anticipate this will be factored into its ecommerce store in the coming months, particularly to home in on product recommendations.

Investment in product: As M&S increasingly looks to reach a more diverse audience and rescue its long-suffering fashion business NPD is being accelerated, with recent launches including a range of nude heels “designed to match every skin tone”. Alongside product investment, increased budgets for celebrity partnerships and influencer activity – particularly on Instagram - is also expected; its recent partnership with Holly Willoughby saw it sell one of her “Must-Have” products every two seconds.

Media Spend Q1-3 2018: £20,250,551

Agencies: Grey London, ASG

Key decision-makers:

Chief Digital Officer Jeremy Pee - connect

Marketing Director Nathan Ansell - connect